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Monday, May 15, 2006

The Case of the Missing Documents

It has been only one month since we were last in Tallinn, Estonia, but visa renewal issues necessitated our going again. Tallinn is a logical choice for us as it is only 24 hours away by train and probably the closest foreign consulate to where we live. Finally, we have returned home to Nizhny Novgorod.

Picture above: Karen in our compartment on the train

We had hoped to be in Tallinn only for about 7 days, but as things turned out, we were there for 18 days, including travel. After arriving in Tallinn we had to wait for some vital documents to be sent to us by DHL currier from our sponsoring organization in Nizhny Novgorod. This should have taken 3 days. Imagine our surprise when we see on the internet tracking site that the documents which were supposed to be delivered that morning had apparently gone from Helsinki, Finland to Central America! As we followed the tracking information for the next several days it seemed that they went back to Brussels, Belgium, and then to Venezuela; from Venezuela to Madrid, Spain and finally back to Helsinki, Finland where after being missing for several days they were flown by helicopter to Tallinn, Estonia. This took an additional 5 days so we had to wait an extra week to apply for our visas. Finally, with documents in hand, we submitted them to the consulate and two days later received the visas.

When we arrived home and spoke with our friend who works for DHL here in Nizhny Novgorod, she shared with us how amazing this episode with the documents was from her perspective as an employee. She had sent a whole sack of parcels to Tallinn from Nizhny together with our documents. She then followed the progress of the shipment in her internal DHL network. Everything that she had sent was delivered to its destination in less than 3 days except for our documents. Apparently what had happened was that when the shipment was re-sorted in Brussels, our parcel was mislaid by human error and effectively ‘lost’, never actually leaving Brussels. The scanned information from our parcel was then flying back and forth across the Atlantic, but the parcel itself was sitting in obscurity in Brussels, Belgium. Our friend, Natasha, told us that when that happens it is nearly impossible to find a lost parcel because DHL employees are so overworked they can rarely get away from their computer screens. All validation of a parcel is done by what is seen on the computer and if that is erroneous…well, “tough luck!” (Not her exact words).

God knew of our need, however, and brought the parcel to someone’s notice so that it could continue its journey on to Tallinn.

We enjoyed being in Tallinn. It is a lovely, medieval city with loads of history. After living in Russia for over two years the cleanliness and orderliness of Tallinn was very relaxing and soothing. Despite this, we were anxious to get back to Nizhny Novgorod. We missed our friends and the work that is being established here.
Street Musician in Tallinn

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